Kate Garrett Talks Magic

Today our Featured Artist Kate Garrett shares a guest post with us on all things magical!

Photo by carole smile on Unsplash
Poetry is a spell – a few random thoughts from a scribbling witch

Magic, in my view, is everywhere, and the thing I consider it to be goes by different names to different people – but my personal definition of ‘magic’ is a sense of being connected to things outside of me – to the earth, the wider universe, other people and living things. It’s part of actual spellwork – that’s the witchcraft bit: using that connectedness, the magic in everything, to make things happen, move them forward. It’s focusing on symbolism far older than myself (e.g. astrology, the folklore of plants, animals, elements, gods) while also weaving references from books, films, and music together with ancestral wisdom. It’s an odd little system, but even though I am not the first witch in my family, I have had to walk the path mostly alone (due to deaths, moving to a new country, and a bumpy life), so it’s all mine: a mix of my background (rural, Midwestern/Appalachian, USA), my immediate surroundings (urban, Yorkshire, United Kingdom), and anything in pop culture, or literature, or otherwise, that resonates with me enough to focus my willpower with it.

When I apply magic to writing poetry – particularly the poems in To Feed My Woodland Bones, which is out in September right here at Animal Heart Press – it feels like a case of having one foot in this world, very much on solid ground, and one foot in some Otherworld where mysteries dwell, the ones that still haven’t been satisfactorily explained by scientific enquiry (which, it has to be said, I do love as much as the spiritual and supernatural – I’m really not an either/or sort of person). I’d even go as far as saying it isn’t just applying magic to writing, but that poems in my experience are not static things, but a magical process all their own. And all of this considered – it makes perfect sense that I wrote a chapbook about a changeling.

Unsurprising spoiler: the changeling is me. I’m autistic, queer (bisexual and androgyne/nonbinary), have physical disabilities, and I survived decades of varying levels of neglect, abuse, and assault, and am still surviving the resulting C-PTSD from that abuse. For several of those reasons, there is certainly a place and time in history where I’d have been considered a changeling – a strange, out-of- place faery or elf child swapped for a perfect human one. It’s why I wrote the poem ‘Changeling’ in the first place, the piece that started it all several years ago – I was thinking about being neurodivergent, and how my mother had a way of making me feel like I didn’t belong, like she’d ordered another kid and got me instead. Last summer this expanded into the ‘elf poems’: ‘An elf in awe of her human lover’, ‘An elf cannot return to the Otherworld’, ‘An elf in the witch-garden’, ‘An elf turns inside out for the dragon’, etc – which then turned into a full sequence about this being who doesn’t quite fit in with humans, but also can’t go back to where she came from, because she isn’t sure where that even is.

And this is where the magic came in: these poems allowed me to celebrate several parts of my identity that in years past used to cause me a great deal of anxiety, and helped me process things like my childhood neglect, difficult experiences with childbirth, and multiple losses of those I loved. To a greater or lesser extent, this celebration and transformation happens with each book I write. Writing is only one part of the healing, expansion, and growth – seeing the shape of the poems on the page, reading them out loud at events, discovering how they’ve reached some similar place inside readers (or listeners), are all part of the magic. And even if you’re a solitary witch like me, the best magic is not performed alone – it’s the kind of spell that reaches out and benefits people beyond yourself.

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